One of my greatest faith lessons came from failing at youth sports.
I sat on the bench for four years. Four years! I tried my best, gave it everything I had, but I couldn’t get on the field. What was I even doing? Sports were all about winning, right? I thought, prayed and realized that I was a failure. But I was still happy. God was taking care of me. And eventually, when I did get on the field and had success, I knew that God had helped me get there. I didn’t know it just because someone told me. I had lived it. I knew it in my bones.
When I lost my job 20 years later, my sports experience gave me a firm foundation on which to stand. Losing my job was the worst failure of my life, but not the first. I knew what to do. I looked at the other parts of my life and realized how much God had blessed me. I also knew God would help me overcome it, because God had done it before. And God did.
That’s why I coach and encourage my kids to play sports. It’s not so they can win games. It’s so kids can develop a rock-solid faith. So they can fail, and learn for themselves that God will bring them through it. Safety first, of course, but I’m doing a disservice to the kids I coach and to my own children if I shield them from failure.
Losing my job was the worst failure of my life, but I looked at the other parts of my life and realized how much God had blessed me.
Instead, my calling as both parent and coach is to encourage my children to strive for success and walk with them when they stumble. I want to help them realize later, when they look back, that it was God who got them through. That way, when they are adults and the really tough times come, they have built for themselves a firm foundation of faith on which to stand.
Support your children when they try new activities, even those that are hard, such as playing an instrument or joining an academic or athletic team as allowed in your context. Give them space to struggle.
Reflect on your life, and share with kids how God brought you through failure, perhaps with meaningful Bible verses (for example, Matthew 7:24-27 or Psalm 23) and hymns like “Amazing Grace,” “How Firm a Foundation” or “It Is Well with My Soul.” Share them with your child when they grapple with challenges. That way, when they get through it, they can look back and see that God was with them all along.
When your kids fail, pray together. Here’s one to try: “God in heaven, build our faith through failure and show us how we can overcome life’s disappointments—together. Help us remember that, whether we win or lose, we are worthy and beloved. Amen.”